7 Things You Can Do to Help a Child With Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by differences in the brain compared to a neurotypical (non-autistic) brain. ASD affects how a person communicates with and relates to others and can cause behavioral challenges. A parent who finds out their child has ASD can feel lost as to how to deal with this life-changing diagnosis.
However, there are plenty of things you can do to help your child with autism grow and develop into a confident, capable adult. Read on for our top tips on crisis prevention intervention if you have a child on the autism spectrum.
1. Support Their Differences
The best thing you can do is recognize that your child’s differences are not only okay but are what makes them unique. Don’t ignore their needs because they might be different from yours or others.
They are still part of your family and should be treated with love and kindness. Remember, you’re not alone in parenting a child with autism – many families face similar challenges every day. If you’re ever feeling down or overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
2. Create a Personal Treatment Plan
Diagnosis is just half of your child’s road to health – treatment is equally as important. A treatment plan lays out specifically what therapies your child will receive, how long each session should last, and what you should look for in terms of improvements.
To ensure successful implementation of your child’s autism treatment plan, enlist help from family members or other caregivers. It may take some time before you see concrete results, but be patient and stick with it – even small changes can have big effects.
3. Explore New Things With Them
One of your child’s biggest challenges may be learning how to interact with people, especially new people. When you visit new places or meet people for the first time, talk about them together. Look at their eyes and facial expressions and touch their hair or clothes. This can help your child understand that all people are interesting – not scary – and it can also teach them how to socialize by giving them cues on what’s expected of them.
It’s common for kids with autism to need extra help making and keeping friends, but not just because of their differences – it’s also because of what we expect from them. Children with autism tend to lack social skills and emotional understanding. That means they may respond differently than other children when someone wants to play or may behave in ways that seem rude or unkind.
4. Practice Consistency
A crucial part of helping a child with autism is establishing and maintaining consistency. Setting up routines and sticking to them as much as possible will help your child feel more secure, making it easier for them to learn how to deal with new situations later on. A structured routine also provides boundaries and reduces uncertainty, which can be particularly helpful for kids with autism.
5. Validate Their Feelings
Autistic children tend to experience their emotions more intensely than neurotypical children. If your child is upset, don’t brush it off as just a phase, even if you’re eager for them to get over it and stop crying.
Instead, validate their feelings by letting them know you understand they are upset and that it’s okay. Be patient; autistic kids often have trouble verbalizing their feelings, so sometimes just being understood can be all they need. They might not be able to name the emotion they are feeling, so helping them do this can be a big step in the right direction.
6. Communicate Non-verbally
Children with autism often have trouble understanding and expressing themselves, so it’s important for parents and teachers to be sensitive to these challenges and find ways to communicate without words. The first step is figuring out how your child is most comfortable communicating. Do they enjoy listening to music? Do they respond best when you draw pictures or write notes?
You can also learn by observing your child. Autistic children may communicate in different ways – learning to read their facial expressions, gestures, and sounds will help you understand what they need.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Support
It’s natural for parents of children with special needs to try and tackle challenges on their own, but sometimes you need support. Just like other caregivers, parents of autistic children can feel overwhelmed at times.
It’s okay to reach out for help from someone who understands what you’re going through – your doctor, an autism organization, or family members and friends who have been in your shoes before. If you’re really struggling, consider respite care so that you can take some time off to rest and regroup.